May 8, 2021

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Former Florida State, NFL linebacker Geno Hayes passes away at 33 from liver disease

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Former Florida State Seminoles and NFL linebacker Geno Hayes, who had been under hospice care at his parents’ home in Georgia, died Monday evening from liver disease.

He was 33.

Frankie Carroll, who coached Hayes at Madison County (Fla.) High School, told the Democrat he was informed of the player’s passing by Hayes’ family. 

“It’s one of those things where you have to make sure you tell them you love them,” said Carroll, who recently visited Hayes. 

In an interview with ESPN earlier this year, Hayes said he was diagnosed with “chronic liver disease” two years ago. He also said he had been placed on a waiting list for a transplant at the Mayo Clinic and Northwestern Medicine. 

Hayes signed with FSU in 2005 out of Madison County, where he became one of the top linebackers in the nation.

Carroll fondly recalled when then-FSU coach Bobby Bowden visited Hayes’ home in Greenville. Hayes deftly pushed a plate of greens underneath his bed as Bowden toured the home. 

“Geno’s mom kept the house immaculate, spotless – and she was so mad,” Carroll said and laughed. 

Geno Hayes celebrates an interception by Florida State teammate Tony Carter during the Emerald Bowl against UCLA on Dec. 27, 2006.

Hayes played three seasons at FSU – finishing his junior season second on the team in total tackles with 94 – and opted for the NFL draft, where he was a sixth-round selection of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008.

Hayes moved into the starter’s role at weakside linebacker in his second season with the Buccaneers, replacing former Seminole and future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks and finishing with a career-best 98 tackles. 

Geno Hayes played seven NFL seasons with three different teams.

Hayes played seven seasons in the NFL with the Buccaneers, Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars. He finished his pro career with 401 tackles, 10 sacks, six forced fumbles, six interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.

Hayes was known on the field for his athleticism and quickness, and off it for his infectious, bright smile and willingness to help his hometown of Greenville. He had been under hospice care at his parents’ home in Valdosta.  

Hayes told ESPN that he believes his use of over-the-counter pain medications during his time in the NFL, as well as his family’s history of liver disease, led to his condition. Hayes has two children, ages 13 and 8. 

When asked what he would tell his players about Hayes, current Madison County coach Mike Coe told the Democrat Monday night: “That he absolutely loved being a Cowboy, great teammate, practiced like he played, with relentless energy, juice, passion. Fearless. Then later to see the Dad that he turned into, the joy that his kids brought him.”

Coe also offered this message on Twitter: “RIP buddy. Tell your kids you love them and pray for them always.”

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